Around the world, millions of teams have been thrown into company-wide remote working. Employees everywhere are having to adapt to a new way of working – fast. And at the same time, there is an expectation to somehow run ‘business as usual’.
Some companies may already be adept with remote working, having previously done this on a full or part-time basis. But for many, this is new territory, especially at such scale. This is a whole new style of working which requires employees to adapt everything from the tools they use to how they structure their day.
Remote working rids workers of the physical act of leaving the office and can make it challenging to know when to stop working and switch off. According to our research, nearly three-quarters (74%) of workers experience burnout twice a year or more. This has damaging implications for employee morale, engagement and ultimately retention.
When teams are working remotely, there is a heightened need for business leaders to ensure that employees don’t find themselves working all hours.
While there’s no simple solution, there are a number of steps businesses can take to help employees streamline workflows, better manage their time and achieve a greater work-life balance. This will not only act to boost productivity levels, but it can also help to improve overall engagement which can lead to better business outcomes.
Less is more
In a new world of remote working organisations are responding to a new need for tools that help teams stay connected and get work done. While some of these are essential to day to day business operations, it’s likely that most of these aren’t used consistently and that a lot of activity could be streamlined into three to four key apps used by all teams.
To help employees minimise the amount of time spent shifting context and jumping between different tools and platforms, ensure you’ve set clear guidelines around why, when and how a tool should be used by each team member. This will help minimise any confusion and can streamline activity and communications across your organisation.
Beyond helping to provide clarity around how tools should be used, reducing this number can also help employees limit the amount of notifications and alerts they receive each day. To further reduce unnecessary distractions, share an overview of best practices for each tool, including detail around how to opt-out of certain notifications.
Sit less, move more
While it may seem counterintuitive, asking employees to take regular breaks and move about can act to boost productivity levels considerably, rather than decrease their output.
During extremely busy and stressful periods, things like coffee breaks and regular exercise are usually pushed to the side to make way for other work. While these may seem like simple sacrifices that may increase the chances of a presentation being completed or a piece of content is delivered ahead of time, lack of proper self-care can have a big impact on employee productivity, creativity and overall wellbeing.
Multiple studies have indicated that our mental performance has a direct correlation with our physical regime, helping to improve concentration and memory, enhance creativity and allow us to learn faster. Start by encouraging your team to use their full lunch hour to get outside or look at reimbursing employees for the cost of health and fitness apps, that allow them to do workouts in their own time. Your employees will thank you and you’ll quickly begin reaping the benefits.
Balance availability and time away
I’m sure most of us can admit to spotting an email or notification late at night and feeling the need to instantly respond, despite a clear lack of urgency to take any action at the exact second we receive it.
Whilst not uncommon, this type of action and mindset is having a negative effect on employees and can often lead to burnout, which was recently declared an occupation phenomenon by the World Health Organisation.
To address this challenge and help employees achieve greater balance, it’s important to establish clear guidelines which encourage regular breaks and help to establish a structure to their workday, regardless of whether they’re in the office or working from home.
Executives, HR teams and managers should seek to set the example here, outlining expectations and processes that allow employees to understand how to plan and use their time effectively based on broader business objectives.
An easy way for businesses to achieve this by creating a policy around calendar settings that allows for visibility across your entire organisation. Another simple step businesses can take is to ask that employees leverage “do not disturb” and other “away” features which have become standardised across most productivity tools. In fact, we have just launched a “do not disturb” feature in Asana to help employees master their work/life balance.
Features like this can help empower employees to create an online work environment which supports work-life balance, by limiting interruptions and allowing them to focus on important tasks which require deeper concentration.
From small steps to big strides
It’s important to understand that productivity comes in ebbs and flows, and can’t be mastered overnight. Especially when there’s a huge disruption in how we work – like entire companies working from home suddenly – expect it to take some time for your organisation to adapt.
And while there are steps that can be taken to help minimise distractions, improve communication and workflow, and help employees find time to switch off, businesses need to continually assess and seek our new ways of working in order to achieve a sustainable boost in productivity levels.
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